Reviewed by Dave Goodman, May 1st, 2015
Jazz thrives on the sustained development of integrity and trust formed in the relationships between musicians within micro and macro music communities around the world over time. The music of such communities often beckons members of extremely diverse backgrounds and interests to join and flourish within the ranks of its existing participants. Somehow or other the commonality of the music serves as a cohesive bond that forms lifelong friendships that allow individuals to “get on with one another” convivially in largely unspoken ways. In many cases these bonds resemble the conversance of family, and yet they differ entirely from family in that they come about purely as a result of choice – perhaps even compulsion.
The title of the current album gives an apt indication of the depth of commonality and kinship present in the musical bonds existing between bassist Nick Abbey, pianist Chris Foster and drummer Ben Falle. With Brotherhood, these three fine Perth musicians have created a model collaborative effort that is beautifully recorded, and will induce you to enjoy listening over and over again. The concept of brotherhood extends beyond the trio itself and the music to include those who helped bring the album into existence through a crowd-funding campaign – these co-collaborators are credited in the album liner notes. The success of this campaign admirably symbolises the essential symbiosis between performer-composers such as Abbey, Foster and Falle, and their listening audiences.
Overall, Brotherhood is imbued with a beautiful elegance, grace and buoyancy throughout. The broad range of dynamic and timbral intrigue helps create the friction needed to make this work repetitively listenable. Each player contributes a number of compositions. Whilst each piece has its own unique compositional flavour, there is a programmatic continuity and congruence between pieces to make the album sound like one complete ensemble statement. Seamless transitions between improvisation and composition are achieved with engaging conviction.
Foster distinguishes himself on piano by soloing independently over his own ostinato on Betty, his Corea-infused opening statement and introduction to the sound of the trio. His ostinato technique is also deployed to dramatic effect in Falle’s Move and again in Abbey’s Avina. One wonders if Foster’s joyous Gone Fischin’ is named in reference and tribute to composer and pianist Clare Fischer who died earlier in the year this album was recorded.
Surface Tension (Abbey) is a slow-paced bass feature journeying through wide-open spaces. Abbey’s compositions seem largely to serve as vehicles to feature his exquisite double bass playing in a variety of contexts including arco. His colla voce All The Has Happened Before… is an evocative duet between piano and bass. There are also a number of bass and left-hand piano unison figures throughout the album that Abbey strides through with consummate mastery.
The highlight of the album for me was Abbey’s Maelstrom featuring the well-orchestrated addition of guitarist Harry Winton whose contribution is nothing short of sublime. Winton’s sound is unusual, and could have been afforded more of a prominent feature in the mix as it lies a little too much under the piano. Falle is brilliant in the coda, as he is on his own Brotherhood – a fast-paced, high-energy highlight, building in interestingly deceptive metrical ways. Perhaps the voice of Chick Corea’s trio sensibility is invoked here, as it seems to be from time to time throughout the rest of the album.